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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chayei Sarah, Bereishis 23:2. Hesped for a Suicide

This post replaces an earlier version from 2011.  It also mostly replaces the post that I started with a few days ago.  Thank you to the correspondents that contributed to the improvement.

23:2.  ולבכותה  Avraham mourned Sara, but the letter Kof in "ve'livkosa" is written small in the Sefer Torah.  The Baal Haturim cites a Braisa in Maseches Smachos that states that a person that causes his own death is not to be eulogized.  This is not to say that there is no obligation of mourning; the Baal Haturim paskens that there is an obligation to mourn, but there are no eulogies, as taught in the Braisa in Smachos 2:1, as follows:

המאבד את עצמו בדעת - אין מתעסקין עמו בכל דבר. רבי ישמעאל אומר: קורין עליו 'הוי נשלחה, הוי נשלה'. אמר לו רבי עקיבא: הנח לו בסתמו. אל תברכהו ואל תקללהו. 
אין קורעין ואין חולצין ואין מספידין עליו, אבל עומדין עליו בשורה, ואומרין עליו ברכת אבלים, מפני שהוא כבוד לחיים. כללו של דבר: כל שהוא לכבוד החיים, הרבים מתעסקין בו; וכל שאינו לכבוד החיים, אין הרבים מתעסקין בו. 
איזהו מאבד את עצמו בדעת? לא שעלה לראש האילן ונפל ומת, ולא לראש הגג ונפל ומת, אלא זה שאמר: 'הריני עולה לראש האילן או לראש הגג, ואפיל עצמי ואמות', וראוהו שעלה לראש האילן, ונפל ומת, או לראש הגג, ונפל ומת - הרי זה בחזקת המאבד את עצמו בדעת. וכל המאבד את עצמו בדעת, אין מתעסקין בו בכל דבר. 
מצאוהו חנוק ותלוי באילן, הרוג ומושלך על גבי הסייף - הרי הוא בחזקת מאבד עצמו שלא לדעת. וכל המאבד עצמו שלא לדעת, אין מונעין הימנו כל דבר. 
ומעשה בבנו של גורגיוס שברח מבית הספר, והראה לו אביו באזנו, ונתיירא מאביו, והלך ואיבד עצמו בבור. ושאלו לרבי טרפון, ואמר: אין מונעין הימנו כל דבר. 

He then quotes the Gemara (Bava Kamma 93a) that a person who asks Hashem to judge someone else is closely scrutinized under Middas Hadin and might die as a result.  That Gemara derives this from Sara's death here in our parsha:

אמר רב חנן המוסר דין על חבירו הוא נענש תחילה שנאמר (בראשית טז) ותאמר שרי אל אברם חמסי עליך וכתיב (בראשית כג) ויבא אברהם לספוד לשרה ולבכותה

Sarah invoked Hashems' judgment upon Avraham Avinu, and this brought Middas Hadin, which resulted in her death.  Combining the Gemara that Sara "precipitated" her own death with the Braisa in Smachos that one who ends his own life is not eulogized, the Baal Haturim says that this is why Avraham did not say a hesped for her.  Now, Sara did not commit suicide.  But, he says, what she did contributed to her death, and that is reason enough to not eulogize.  In the words of the Baal Haturim:

 ולבכתה. כ''ף קטנה שלא סכה אלא מעט לפי שזקנה היתה א''נ שהיתה כמו גורמת מיתתה שמסרה דין ועל כן נענשה היא תחלה והמאבד עצמו לדעת אין מספידין אותו:

This is most likely intended as drush, and not as a source of halacha.  But the concept would seem to apply to anyone whose behavior contributed to their death.  If so, if someone knowingly engages in unnecessary risky behavior (that is not דרך כל הארץ), such as one who is very obese due to overeating, or a person that smokes excessively, or a people who do freediving, BASE jumping, and pole vaulting (you wouldn't believe how dangerous pole vaulting is), may Hashem preserve them all, but if רחמנא ליצלן Hashem does not, one might cite the Baal Haturim as proof that one should not eulogize them.  I'm pretty sure that nobody is going to change his behavior for fear of not getting a nice hesped, and acute depressive disorder might remove some of the halachic stigma of suicide (Aruch Hashulchan YD 345:5- כללו של דבר במאבד עצמו לדעת׳ תלינן בכל איזה תלייה כל שהוא׳ כגון לתלות ביראה או בצער, או שיצא מדעתו, או שסבור היה שזה מצוה לבלי להכשל בעברות
 אחרות וכיוצא באלו הדברים מפני שזהו דבר רחוק שאדם יעשה נבלה כזו בדעת  צלולה), but if you want an excuse to not go the hespeidim, now you have one.

Again, I want to stress that the Baal Haturim probably did not mean this lehalacha.  And even if he did, the halacha is not like him.  The Rama in 345:2 brings (from מהרי"ו סימן קי"ד) that unless it was inescapably clear that death would follow, a foolhardy risk taker is not called a suicide for these purposes:
מי שגנב וגזל ועל ידי זה נהרג בדין מלכות מתאבלים עליו אם אין בו סכנה מפני אימת המלכות ולא מקרי מאבד לדעת
The Shach explains that one should not think that his knowing taking of a risk means that he has a din of a suicide, because he believed that he would get away with it.  So it is clear that unless the person who engages in my list above knows that he is likely to die and is indifferent to that death, he would not be categorized as a suicide for matters of Aveilus.

The Baal Haturim  himself was very machmir on this concept.  We see this in the Baal Haturim in Brieshis 9:5, where he says that the passuk ואך את דמכם לנפשתיכם אדרש, the source of the issur of suicide, means that it is even assur to curse yourself.  He says כמו שאסור להרוג עצמו כך אסור לקלל עצמו והוא ואך את דמכם לנפשותיכם ואך את הדבר שאפילו הדבור אדרוש.  So you see how far he takes this issur, and why he would say that even the indirect and indefinite effect of Sarah's words might fall under this issur.

Let's think about this concept.  Why is there a din that one does not eulogize a suicide?
1.  Is it because of the gravity of the sin, the affront to the will of the Ribono shel Olam, in which case there are other sins for which a person would be similarly punished by silent funeral?
2.  Or is it specific to suicide; If the person chose to die, he doesn't deserve to be mourned or honored by being spoken well of at the time of that death.

The reason I ask is because if it is because of the gravity of the sin, I find it hard to equate outright suicide with recklessness.  I can't imagine that any sort of negligence or recklessness would be viewed with the same severity as specific intent to end one's life.   If it is because of choosing to die, it's still hard to equate our case with outright suicide, but at least it is under the same rubric.

I mentioned that suicide is an extremely serious sin.  That means that besides the basic issur, it has some aggravating factor that increases the severity of the sin.  How do we know this?  One of the expressions that is well known but that has no known source in Chazal is  המאבד עצמו לדעת אין לו חלק לעולם הבא
that a suicide has no share in the world to come.

The earliest appearance of this phrase in in the Maharit (Kesuvos 103a, by the story of the launderer,) and the Shevet Mussar, who do not provide any source.  The Lechem Shamayim in Sanhedrin 87 brings it from a Tosefta in Menachos, but it does not appear in any Tosefta that we have.  It is important to realize that even if we never find a source for it, these alone are enough to legitimize the words, although other rishonim might argue with him.

For example, the Rambam in Teshuva, in his list of people who lose their share in Olam Haba, does not mention a suicide.  One might argue that he is included in שופכי דמים, murderers, but it appears that the Rambam does not mean a person who murdered one time.  He means murderers, people who murdered serially, which won't apply to a suicide.  Also, the Rambam in I Eivel 11, when he talks about not eulogizing this person, does not say anything about ein lo cheilek.    And in II Rotzeiach he just says that this person is מיתתו בידי שמים, he is subject to heavenly punishment.

Some bring the story in Gittin 57b of the children on the boat who asked, If we drown ourselves, will we have olam haba, and they were told that since they did it to save themselves from a life of depravity and horror they will have a share in Olam haba.  From there, they say, we can deduce that if not for the legitimate motive, they would indeed lose their Olam Haba.

Others note that among all that died for Kiddush Hashem, among them some that willingly put themselves to death, (חנינא בן תרדיון ור׳ עקיבא האי כובס ובקלנצטירו ור׳ אלעזר בן דורדיא) the Gemara always ends with the words that a Bas Kol came that they were מזומני׳לחיי עולם הבא.  The implication is that absent the special circumstances, they would not be מזומני׳ לחיי עולם הבא.

There's a often quoted and generally derided teshuva in the Besamim Rosh that notes that among those that don't have a share in Olam Haba, in the Mishna in Sanhedrin, Achitophel is mentioned.  The sin that lost him his Olam Haba is his rebellion against the reign of David Hamelech.  But the fact that he hanged himself is not mentioned, implying that such a sin would not be sufficient reason for losing Olam Haba.  He answers that only one who commits suicide because of some rebellion against God's will loses his Olam Haba, but a person who suffers from unbearable anguish is not considered so sinful.  As I said, ninety percent of the current poskim hold that this teshuva is a forgery and a fraud.

So, getting back to our discussion of the Baal Haturim, would his words apply to people whose behavior contributes to their early demise?

Please note that our passuk says לספד, to eulogize her.  If, as the Tur says, she had a din of one who caused their own death, he shouldn't have eulogized her at all!

It appears that he did, but in a lesser fashion.  Why would he have?  It ought to be all or none.  Being partially maspid, I think, would be neither one nor the other.

A possible answer is that the din hesped for a tzadik gamur is different than the din hesped for a tzadik not-gamur.  If so, the answer to this question is that to say that moser din is like shortening your own life is only true for a tzadik gamur.  It is only a criticism of a person as great as Sarah Imeinu.  So Avraham was not maspid her as befits a tzadik gamur.  But he was maspid her as befits a tzadik not-gamur.   The Baal Haturim's use of the Tosefta is a chidush, but he might mean that since K'chut hasa'ara, she needed this absence of kavod for kapara.

Another possibility is that as the Braisa in Smachos says, while one does not eulogize the niftar, one does those things that bring honor to the bereaved.  If eulogizing Sarah would inspire teshuva in the listeners, then it would certainly be muttar to do so.

The Pischei Teshuva in 345:1 brings from the Chasam Sofer that where not being maspid for a suicide would be a disgrace for the family, it is muttar to be maspid- not for the dead person, but to prevent the family's disgrace.  Although the Gemara in Sanhedrin 46b presents as alternative options that the hesped is honor of the dead or that it is honor of the living, that would only be true in the abstract.  There are, as the Pischei Teshuva says, cases where the hesped is definitely necessary for the honor of the living.

But I think that the most logical answer is that what Sarah Imeinu did, and le'havdil a lifestyle that increases the likelihood of death, are not halachicly comparable to suicide, even according to the Baal Haturim.  Every area of Halacha stands alone, and in each we have to determine the definition that distinguishes contributing from causing.  That standard of that distinction is not the same in Nezikin (civil liability) and in Bechoros (causing a mum) and in Meleches Shabbos (asiyah assurah, gramah mutteres, but maybe only by kibbui) and Kodshim (causing the korban to become nosar) and in what is called meabeid atzmo ladaas.   Some of you might might enjoy going through the various iterations.

In other words, the same way that in murder there's meizid, and shogeg karov l'meizid, and shogeg, and each has its specific punishment, the same is true in suicide.  There's out-and-out suicide, for which there is no hesped at all, and there's manslaughterish suicide, for which the hesped should be diminished.  That is Rav Sternbuch's approach, as I reproduce in the photographs below.

Reb Chaim Brown, in a comment, says that he saw a similar answer in a contemporary sefer.  He correctly says that I probably wouldn't like it.  He is right.  I said it was logical.  I didn't say I liked it.  To me it seems that if you're maspid, you're maspid, and if there is a reason to not be maspid, then you say nothing at all.  This in between business does not appeal to me at all.  You can make a peshara between Rashi and the Rambam with your mezuza.  It doesn't work with hespeidim.

Rav Sternbuch brings an amazing story that he heard from Reb Isser Zalman about the Chafetz Chaim.  Considering the chain of transmission, it's a story that you can believe.

The story is that when the Chafetz Chaim's son in law, Rav Levinson, passed away, the Chafetz Chaim was seen softly debating with himself.  He said to himself, maybe he is like one who committed suicide?  He then decided that this was not the case.  With the Baal Haturim in mind, his thoughts are understandable.  Although the Chafetz Chaim said about Rav Hirsh Levinson that his zechusim held up half of the world, perhaps his austerities contributed to his death, and so he should not eulogize him fully, as the Baal Haturim indicates.  He then decided that this was not the case, perhaps that the austerities did not really contribute to his death.

I just heard from a Yungermahn in the local Kollel that he heard the following.  Rav Yitzchok Perman, a Ram in Philadelphia, said that when Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky was Rov in Tzituvyan, he warned someone not to fast on Yom Kippur. The man fasted and died.  Reb Yakov refused to be maspid, because he held he was a me'abeid atzmo. Obviously there could be other factors there as well, such as making a statement about listening to the psak of a Rov and to ensure that others would not do the same in the future. But the stated reason was me'abeid atzmo.


So, bottom line: May one eulogize a morbidly obese, smoking, pole vaulting free-diver who prayed that Hashem punish a fellow Jew?  Boy, what a hesped that would be.  As to what the halacha is, now you have all the information you need to decide on your own.


Here's Rav Sternbuch on the Baal HaTurim.




7 comments:

Chaim B. said...

I don't understand - ain yisrurim b'lo cheit v'ain misah b'lo avon. Since at the end of the day everyone (or at least every tzadik) dies only because of his/her sins, for which he/she alone is responsible, every death can be categorized as suicide through aveira.

In terms of the question, I would suggest a Brisker-ish answer: there are 2 dinim in hesped - 1) honor for the dead; 2) benefit for the living mourners (Sanhedrin 45). Perhaps Sarah's being m'orer din caused a diminishment in terms of the honor she deserved through hesped, but in terms of second din Avraham felt he still should say something.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

First point- you'll have to be mechaleik between direct and indirect. Second point you're mechavein to great unk in the older post.

Anonymous said...

Don't understand why undermining our Mother Sarah, when she was on a higher spiritual level than Avraham Avinu; and we surely don't come to the soles of her feet. Her actions, after all, were just human.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Very good point. It's important that we stress that this is not a condemnation, or even a criticism. It is more in the way of the criticism of Moshe Rabbeinu at Mei Meriva, where he struck the rock instead of speaking to it- a act that was only considered wrong in the context of Moshe Rabbeinu's angelic perfection. By the standard of absolute middas hadin as applied to a man who spoke to Hashem constantly, it was the wrong thing to do. Which leads into my suggested explanation- that of course Sarah was entitled to hesped, because what she did was, as you said, entirely right by normal human standards. Only by the heightened standards of the great Sarah was her act deemed imperfect. The slightest imperfection on a background of flawless perfection, the faintest gray mark on a glowing white cloth, appears terrible.

Chaim B. said...

I saw the Imrei Shamai quotes the Ba'al haTurim and deals with your issue by saying that Sarah was only indirect causation of m'abed atzmo; the din of no hesped only applies when you directly do it. (It's like a gerama vs. ma'aseh.) I don't think you will be satisfied with that, but I wanted to pass on the mareh makom anyway.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Thanks. I'll check it out .

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

I was just in the Kollel looking for the Imrei Shammai (they don't have it.) When I said over the idea that the same way there are madreigos in retzicha there are madreigos in me'abeid atzmo, I realized that it is very pashut, and really should end the discussion.
But while I was there, a yungermahn told me that he heard from Rav Yitzchok Perman of Philadelphia that when Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky was Rov in Tzituvyan, he warned someone not to fast on Yom Kippur. He fasted and died, and Reb Yakov refused to be maspid, because he held he was a me'abeid atzmo. Obviously there could be other factors there as well, such as making a statement about listening to the psak of a Rov and to ensure that others would not do the same in the future. But the stated reason was me'abeid atzmo.